|This little piggy weighs in at about 160 kilos and was raised on a small farm in north eastern Hungary to provide food, particularly lard, for the winter|
A couple of months ago there was an email from Opentrips about an adventure to Hungary, specifically to a place called Mád. One pleasure of subscribing to this site is the momentary fantasy of going - trying new places, food, drink - cooking and eating in the company of a bunch of others who also define this as pleasure.
Full of things I didn't know - local wines to try - Aszu and Furmint, fishing for perch pike and carp, cooking Hungarian food using local ingredients. At its centre was the killing and processing of a pig. I eat meat, am careful about where it comes from but I'd never been there at the death of anything larger than a few fish and a lot of yabbies in the year we lived in Bourke. I wanted to know how the pig changes from animal to meat
The day started early - we all met up before 7am for a shot of Palinka - the local brandy, the traditional way to start.
Once we were set to go, the pig, which was never frightened at any point, was taken from the cage with a squeal of incredible outrage. That sound will stay with me forever.
The fresh blood is collected into bowls and started to coagulate almost immediately. It was soon cooked up into a blood stew for breakfast - nothing goes to waste.
Once the pig has been bled out, it is moved from the concrete onto grass - the half dozen strong men were back in action.
High flame is used to burn off all the hair, a surprising amount.
Then the blackened carcass is scraped and scrubbed clean with a stiff brush in a bucket of water.
This is the end of the pig being a complete animal.
The work of breaking the carcass down begins once the intestines have been carefully removed
to be cooked up to make fresh offal sausage later
The caul fat is also kept for cooking, just like everything else.
The butcher and his assistant brought the carcass inside to break it down with impressive skill into the various cuts of meat.
Outside over a sort of kettle drum fire chef had lots of pans bubbling away, including one with all the bits from the head
it was chopped and mixed with lots of paprika it was stuffed into the pig's stomach
Then sewn up with needle and thread to safely encase all the meat.
It was boiled again for an hour or more and then, once cooled, it was pressed to make a sort of Hungarian brawn
The butchery was noticably different to the way pigs are broken down in England. All the meat is very lean - all fat is stripped off, including from the hams. Its kept to get the family through the winter - there is no other source of oil or fat available for cooking, so the primary purpose of raising pigs is for their fabulous lard.
All the meat we didn't eat on the day was given to the local old people's home for the winter.
Some of the fat was diced into sort of uber fatty lardon and then heated in a huge pan to be stirred with an enormous stick for a couple of hours.
The intestines were drained after boiling for a couple of hours, then minced
and becoming big fat vibrant spicy sausage, also barbecued for our dinner.
Then there was stew - all the gelatinous bits were boiled up together with quinces and peppers and things then finished with cabbage - both choucroute and finely shredded fresh - to make a gloriously hearty bowl of lunch accompanied by generous quantities of both dry and sweet furmint.
We all drifted off at that point for an hour before coming back for the final meal.
Had to be barbecue!!
Perfect foil to the jerk spice ribs and the fab paprika sausages.
And this is what it is all about - look at this lovely pile of pig fat - it will keep the food rich and nourishing all through the cold winter.
Overall it was a most extraordinary day, I learnt a lot, ate some amazing food and will appreciate the meat I eat all the more.